DNF Reviews and When I Write Them

Posted September 9, 2016 by Bekka in discuss / 3 Comments


I’ve been in a reading slump, so DNFs are par for the course right now. I recently decided to abandon a book I thought was pretty awful. I normally wouldn’t hesitate to write up a post about why I decided not to finish it, but I’ve been busy and tired, completely lacking in energy, and I have to make choices about where to focus the little bit of motivation I do have. So that means rethinking my ideology re DNF reviews.

First, the obvious: I wholeheartedly believe that bloggers have the right to review a book that didn’t finish. If they don’t think a book is worth their time, then I think it’s fine for them to share why. If a book is bad enough that a reviewer had to toss it across the room, you can be damn sure I wanna read that review. I’ve written my own DNF reviews in the past as well. I’ve gotten a handful of trolls about it, especially on Goodreads, but who cares. And anyway, this post isn’t really on the merits of a DNF review. It’s about when and why I write them now.

Some DNFs are simply abandoned because a book is unremarkable. If I forget about it, can’t remember what the hell is going on when I do pick it up, and am just wholly unmoved by the story thus far, I probably won’t talk about it too much. Maybe a sentence on twitter. But a book that makes me feel nothing doesn’t deserve its own ten paragraph essay, so I skip that review. I’ll also pass on writing a whole post about a book if I read less than say, 15%. This is kind of a ballpark figure, but basically, there have been books that I quit really early. Like first ten pages early. In that case, I hardly think it would be “fair” for me to review it.

So what does make me pull out my laptop and go in on a DNF? Well there’s a few things, but mostly it’s because I have something to say. If a book has pissed me off and that’s why I’m reviewing it without having finished it, well, I’m going to write about it. Especially in the following cases.

  • Romanticizing abuse. This happens a lot in paranormal romances, which isn’t a genre a read a whole lot anymore. However, if I come across it, you can bet I will bring it up. (coughcoughacotarcough)
  • Nonsensical plot or character development. When events are unfolding in ways that literally make no sense to me, I’m usually bursting to complain about it. I know I read a lot of YA and teenagers are not famous for always making the best decisions (I mean, neither are adults tbh) but when I see characters making choices that don’t align with their characterization, and nothing else is hooking me to a book, I’m quitting. And reviewing.
  • Bad representation. Now, I don’t claim to know everything about every minority community. But I do know about my own, so I feel comfortable calling out terrible LGBT+ rep. And if I suspect terrible representation re race, I’ll do my research, and then call it out. I’m all for pushing diversity, but not if its at a minority community’s expense.

Now, with my recent DNF that prompted this post, I actually did have something to say. I really disliked the character development. Like, a LOT. I made it halfway through the book and I was angry when I finally decided to call it quits. I have a lot to say about it, too; just check my DMs. However, after reading a handful of other reviews, I decided not to post a DNF review of it. Why? Because of good diversity representation. Reviewers from the particular background of this main character have reviewed this book and stated that it meant a lot to them to see themselves on the page. I know how that feels. So I decided that I’d rather not put anyone off reading this book if that means someone can see their own background represented. This book definitely isn’t for me, but it’s not offensive.

So, do you post DNF reviews? Do you have a neurotic process deciding whether or not to review, like I do? I want to hear your thoughts!

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3 responses to “DNF Reviews and When I Write Them

  1. I do write and post my DNF reviews. I do like the reason you didn’t post it, because of diversity. But I also feel like I would never base my decision to read a book or not on ONE person’s review, whether it be DNF or not. I will look at multiple reviews from bloggers and friends -or even just the Goodreads community. And sometimes I will give it a go, even though someone who’s opinion on books I really trust, didn’t like it. I think as long as you state WHY you didn’t finish it -like in your case the character development- it’s fine. As long as you don’t go around writing “I hate this book because the diverse character”, it’s more than okay :p. I also like to include: but if you are okay with this …. or if you like this … in books, then this book might be for you. So you could for example post that review and state: for readers with this particular background, you might find this character extremely relatable and representative.

    I think it’s important to write DNF reviews. I like to read them as well. Sometimes, these problematic aspects in books need to be addressed. I can read and really like a book at times, and then someone will point out something problematic I completely overlooked. So I go back and think about it. Why didn’t I see it? I think that really helps me understand different people’s perspectives and thoughts more.

    Like, I read this middle grade book for review. And what happened in the first about 30% is the following. The girl was bullied because she was chubby. Her mom wouldn’t let her eat anything but oatmeal and greens and such. Her classmates laughed at her. Teachers and her father knew this, and did nothing. Then she went to a magical place where everything is right side up (because on Earth everything is up side down apparently). And there she looked as beautiful on the outside as she was on the inside: tall, lean and elegant.

    I know that the author tried to portray that beauty on the inside was most important. But to me, this message -and the behavior of the adults- was so utterly wrong that I couldn’t read further. So I wrote a DNF review. And there are many people who love that book. I just couldn’t deal with that particular moment.

    My point being: as long as you have a good reason, and state it in a respectful way, I think it’s more than okay to write a DNF review. It’s your opinion after all 🙂

    (So sorry for the immense comment….)
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  2. I don’t usually do DNF reviews. Partly because when I DNF it is usually because I am not enjoying the books, and don’t want to waste anymore time on it. So therefore, I don’t want to waste time on writing a full review. However, I do now have a category on Goodreads that I put those DNF books in, and I will give a reason sometimes when I choose to DNF. I definitely think it is helpful to read negative reviews as long as the negative reasons are about the book, and not just a troll insulting the author, etc.

    I agree with you on certain things causing me issues. Drugs are a something in a story that I don’t like to read about them as just a normal thing people are doing, as it there are no consequences and all teenagers do them, etc.

    Great post!
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  3. Sorry you’ve had some trolls on your DNF reviews. That’s just crazy. I’ve started doing DNF reviews recently. Honestly, I want to know if someone DNF’d a book why. Their reason may be something like, “it has a love triangle” which may be an absolute no for some, it’s not for me. I only hate BAD love triangles. So I think DNF reviews are important too even if they are short. 🙂
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